Some time ago, way back when I was little, my Dad woke up in the middle of the night with a fright. He smelled smoke and the house was on fire. Jumping up, he woke my mother while throwing on his shoes: “Get the girls. Get out of the house. The house is on fire!!!” He ran out the door.
He ran out of the room. And down the stairs. He ran around the house. Slamming doors as he went. He ran out of the house.
My Mom went back to sleep. She did not get up. She did not investigate. She did not wake me. She did not rouse my sister. She smelled nothing. She went back to sleep.
My father smelled smoke. A house was on fire. He started down the street. She crossed the street. And then he crossed the next. Four blocks away he found the house that was on fire. Soon after, the fire truck arrived.
My Dad trundled home. He found me sleeping in my bed. I was little. I knew nothing of the danger. He found my sister in her bed. She was sleeping. She was not so little, but just as clueless. He woke my Mom who was still sleeping in the bed: “Why didn’t you get up? Why didn’t you save the girls?” “There was no fire.” “There was a fire!” “There was no fire HERE.” “But you could have died! The girls!” “There was no fire here.” The conversation ended as my Mom fell back to sleep. (We are very good sleepers on my Mom’s side of the Family).
Some time ago, way back when I was in college, I was confused. For three years I had taken shots for my allergies—allergies that had rendered my sense of smell pointless. Allergies that I take meds for year round. Allergies that don’t really bother me, but do constantly affect me.
It was spring and I was walking past the cemetery—yes, there was a cemetery in the middle of my University—and I smelled something strange. Something new. I looked around but saw nothing. Later, the same happened, only, I was not walking alone. It was grass, my roommate informed me between fits of laughter. How could I have lived almost 2 decades and not been able to recognize the smell of grass???
Turns out the shots worked—a little. I found a whole new set of smells, but they were never very strong, they were not omnipresent, and they disappeared if I didn’t take my pills daily. As a side note, this proved very useful as a Peace Corps volunteer and in some of my travels.
Some time ago, much more recently, I sat in the cafeteria at work with a discontented look on my face. I sniffed my cheese sandwhich and my nose wrinkled. I sniffed the toast, cheese, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and mayo and felt my stomach flip. It smelled like fish—clearly the mayo had gone bad.
Later, at home, I opened the fridge overcome by nausea. It smelled like something had died in it. I was pretty sure something had. I was also convinced that we hadn’t cleaned it out once since moving to Kazakhstan. I complained loudly. This whole sense of smell is way more hassle than its worth.
To calm me down, S put on a movie. Happily, I watched a movie with my husband—at the moment, I couldn’t even tell you which one. Instead of popcorn, we decided to have ice cream—chocolate ice cream, one of my favorites. We had found a new brand—something written in Russian—but with delicious, rich flavors of chocolate, sour cherry, pistachio, and almond. He served the ice cream in little bowls, but I didn’t like that either. I tried to smell the ice cream and learned that cold things don’t smell like fish… even when they taste like fish.
The very next morning, prodded on by my husband and my inability to eat chocolate ice cream, I peed on a stick. Turns out the nose knows. And it knew first that we are pregnant.
PS Some amount of literary license may have been used here, but the facts are sound based on my memory and family lore.
PPS My husband would like to point out that he said I was pregnant a full 10 days before he (and the ice cream) convinced me to pee on a stick and that I told him he was wrong, repeatedly. Sorry hun!